On archiving papers

A couple people in different conversations over the last few days brought up the idea of archiving our papers.  There was mention that this course could even produce a “tax deduction.”  In the interests of not throwing out the baby with the bathwater, I contacted Lynne Thomas, the archivist at Northern Illinois University, who has been actively attending science fiction conventions and pitching the benefits of archiving papers for a few years now.  She is also, <fe>in what I imagine is her abundant spare time</fe> helping SFWA gather up its various papers and sort them into a rational archive.

Lynne sent me a bunch of links explaining archives, and why you should, and what you should, as well as a list of libraries with large-ish SF collections.  Those links are reproduced below, for those who have an interest.

I want to address this notion of the “tax deduction,” since it keeps rearing its hoary head.  The US Post Office long ago decreed that authors mailing manuscripts to, say, their publishers, could only insure the package for the cost of the paper.  The words, ruled the USPS, were worthless.  So, even if your publisher purchased the novel you were now putting in the mail for $20,000 up-front; if the package was lost, you stood to collect the price of a ream of paper, i.e. the “real property.”

The IRS, not surprisingly, agrees with its sister government organization, and they have ruled, for the purpose of “tax deductions” that only the cost of the real materials may be deducted.  The priceless words are, in a word, exactly priceless.  If you donate a published book to the collection, then you may deduct the cover price, because a book is “real property.”

Also, most libraries do not have the funds to help authors mail their archival materials.  So if you have a dump truck load of, say, typescripts, you’re going to have to bear the expense of getting them to the archive of your choice.  The postage is probably tax deductible, as a business expense — PLEASE NOTE that this is me, talking through my hat.  Check with your accountant.  Always check with your accountant about stuff like this.

All that being said, I’ve talked the situation over with Steve and we are throwing this mountain of typescripts away.

Here are those links I promised:

Information on the SFWA Collection at NIU

What sorts of materials to archive, how to archive, and all kinds of other good information regarding authors’ papers

A list of libraries that host significant SF collections

SF Archival Collections Wiki


One thought on “On archiving papers”

  1. There is the workaround of finding someone looking for a tax break, to sell the material to, and then that person donates the material to a research library of a not-for-profit institution interested in possessing the materials.

    It’s not a scam–the person in the middle set the price/fair market value. Value has always, pragmatically, been what someone was willing to pay for something.

    Museums and libraries pay for stuff all the time, and get loans of material or donations, from people who buy the material often specifically to donate it–the nonprofit might not be willing to spend the money or might not have it, but it happy to receive the property as donation.

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